Why is “fear and trembling” important to the Christian walk?
Being a Christian is a change of identity. We are made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5). We are completely new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our mind changes to the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Our diet changes (John 6:54-58). The purpose of our body changes (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Everything changes! What does this have to do with fear and trembling? Everything.
- Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
Why does Paul say we should fear and tremble while “working out our own salvation?” Paul is calling believers to understand who we are and what has happened to us in Christ. Paul says, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Let’s think about this for a second. Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth, who spoke creation into existence, this God works in me! When I will to be in accordance with the will of God, and then work in response, it is not I, but Almighty God. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20). Is that not something that merits fear and trembling? The very fact that God is who works in me to will and work for his own good pleasure is an incredibly awesome and terrifying fact! But it is a fact to rejoice in!
- If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11 ESV)
If you have been saved by grace through faith, Almighty God dwells inside you! Inside you! Communion is a great symbol of this. When we eat the bread and drink the cup we are proclaiming the death of Christ until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). When we eat the bread and drink the cup they literally go inside our body and we become one literally. Our body breaks down the nutrients and uses it for energy to live and work. Just as we literally take in the bread and cup into our body, so God literally dwells in us and works in us. If this is not worthy of fear and trembling, then I don’t know what is. Fear and trembling come out of an understanding of who we are in Christ. May we all come to a fuller understanding of our Identity in Christ.
- Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:54-58 ESV)